Government agencies frequently impose e-discovery demands on corporations through regulatory inquiries, investigations and a host of other actions. It's easy to forget that these same government agencies have their own responsibilities in the e-discovery arena and many are struggling to get their electronically stored information (ESI) houses in order. That's according to Deloitte's “Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study for Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies." You can access the full report here.The survey revealed that federal legal professionals are actually losing confidence in the ability of their agencies to meet e-discovery demands. Only 59% of survey respondents believed that their agency had effective e-discovery capabilities, compared to 73% the year before. Even more telling, only 38% of respondents expressed confidence that if challenged by a court or opposing party, their agencies could demonstrate the overall quality of the ESI used for e-discovery. That's more than a 50 percent drop from last year's survey data.
Interestingly, 73% of survey respondents reported feeling as confident or more confident in their own abilities to manage e-discovery, about the same as last year. As Richard W. Walker pointed out in a recent article for Information Week, this suggests that while attorneys themselves feel relatively comfortable with e-discovery requirements and demands, many lack confidence in their agency as a whole. Reflective of this trend, “buy-in from senior management" was cited as the second most significant e-discovery challenge facing federal agencies behind “internal systems and processes."
On the e-discovery technology front, the Deloitte survey pointed out that waning e-discovery confidence may indeed be linked to a general push towards more advanced analytical tools. While these technologies are needed to handle increasing data volumes and deliver a numerous benefits, they also require new processes and technical skills that can place a strain on agency resources and engender anxiety among professionals who must learn something new.
It wouldn't be an e-discovery survey without at least some reference to predictive technologies. While predictive tools are gaining wider traction in the private sector, only 17% of survey respondents reported using the technologies at their federal agencies, the same number as last year. One indication the adoption of predictive technologies may soon rise, respondents cited increasing budget and deadline pressures as the number two issue behind increasing data volumes that is driving upper management to explore more advanced e-discovery solutions. Predictive technologies, along with myriad other e-discovery systems, have the ability to deliver significant time and cost savings. It stands to reason that more government agencies will invest in these technologies moving forward.